Lawmaker files lawsuit saying he’s been barred from events including Night Out Against Crime, Pet Palooza, Boo Bash

State Rep. Bob Rita said he was told officials in Tinley Park and Orland Township wanted to keep “politics” out of the events, even though he had participated in the past.

SHARE Lawmaker files lawsuit saying he’s been barred from events including Night Out Against Crime, Pet Palooza, Boo Bash
State Rep. Bob Rita Illinois

Illinois State Rep. Bob Rita.

Ashlee Rezin /Sun-Times

State Rep. Bob Rita is suing Tinley Park and Orland Township, claiming officials there have been denying him permits to participate in several community events, including National Night Out Against Crime, Pet Palooza and Boo Bash.

Rita, a Democrat from Blue Island, said he was told local officials wanted to keep “politics” out of the events, even though he had participated in the past.

“In just the past 12 months, defendants have denied three of Representative Rita’s special event permit applications,” states the lawsuit, which was filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. “These denials have deprived Representative Rita of meaningful opportunities to express support for his constituents in the village and township communities.”

Most recently, Rita said he asked to participate in Tinley Park’s annual National Night Out Against Crime this summer, an event he said he had been a part of since 2017. After getting approval by the police chief, he was later told he could not participate.

Rita quoted an email from the chief saying that “after careful consideration I will have to deny your request. The National Night Out Against Crime is an event to honor law enforcement, and I respectfully request that we refrain from any politics.”

Last year, Rita said he asked to have a table at Pet Palooza, an annual event to raise money for the Township Pet Pantry. Rita said he had participated in the event since 2018, but last year was told it was not “accepting any vendors affiliated with politics.”

Rita said he was similarly denied a presence at the Halloween Boo Bash last October, even though he had participated since 2018. Rita said he was told he would not be allowed a tent or table at the event because he constituted a “political group” rather than a local business.

Rita contends his “First Amendment right to free speech and his Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process” are being denied. He asked for an immediate court order forcing officials to allow him to participate in this year’s National Night Out Against Crime.

But U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah denied his request on Friday after Tinley Park officials said Rita was welcomed to attend the National Night Out Against Crime, happening Tuesday, though politicians are excluded from having tables at the event.

The court will continue to hear arguments on Rita’s complaints, but Shah noted that the “likelihood of success” of his lawsuit “is not strong.”

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